June 15th, 2020

Could Outdoor Dining Help Bring Back Restaurants?

Posted in Restaurants, Tips

Patios, Sidewalks, and Streets Become Dining Rooms as Restaurants Restart

Outdoor Dining

As restaurants nationwide begin to open their doors again (with limited capacity), creative owners are asking if outdoor dining might be a solution, or part of a solution, for how to restart on premise dining.

Many factors come into play here, but initial prospects are positive. Let’s see what we need to make outdoor dining a boost for restaurants and how it can be done safely.

Outdoor Dining in Response to Coronavirus

Government

How To Outdoor Dining

The first step in getting diners outside is getting enough space to allow diners to eat while maintaining distance. Restaurants and government bodies have been working diligently in cities around the U.S. to loosen restrictions on outdoor dining.

The focus is on freeing up sidewalk spaces, common spaces, green-ways, and even streets in some circumstances, to become outdoor dining rooms. In San Francisco, Mayor Breed has released the “Shared Spaces” act which goes into effect on June 15th, allowing restaurants to set up tables in parks, on sidewalks, and in plazas.

Chicago is taking this one step further by looking at specific neighborhoods that could be shut down to traffic and turned into large outdoor dining centers. Denver is extending the common walkways in places like 16th Street Mall to allow for more tables than just the designated patios. Ideas like this, when combined, could be enough to get some restaurants back to capacity.

Creative Spaces

Drive-In Restaurants

Other restaurants and cities are finding even more creative ways to create safe dining spaces. BJs Restaurant and Bar in Mingus, TX turned their parking lot into an outdoor movie theater and is providing their full menu for diners to enjoy in the comfort of their own vehicles. They’re able to serve up to 40 vehicles a time during screenings.

Weather

Outdoor dining areas

Weather is the always unpredictable factor in outdoor dining, and restaurants aren’t blind to this. Many have invested in over-sized umbrellas, tents, and other physical barriers to keep folks outside and comfortable.

In Amsterdam, Mediamatic Eten restaurant went as far as building personal outdoor greenhouses for their guests. While they might not be feasible for every restaurant, it certainly is a creative solution!

Safety

Restaurant Diner Safety

Finally, and most importantly, restaurants will still need to address how to keep people safe during their dining experience. Most venues still require masks to be worn when not actively eating or drinking. Outdoor sanitation stations have been implemented for customers to cleanse their hands without needing to crowd inside.

Restaurants will also still have to balance the need to have enough guests in seats to cover costs, while ensuring necessary social distancing. Luckily, outdoor spaces allow for more creativity in table designs.

And finally, the issue of restrooms. It will still be important that people do not congregate, so a rush for the lavatory could spell disaster. Therefore, servers may need to alert customers when the restrooms are free, require outdoor lines to enter, or other, more creative solutions, like text requests or pagers.

Ready to Dine Outside?

I know I am. So, use these ideas to create safe spaces for your diners. I know they’re just as excited to see you as you are to see them. And don’t forget to check out our Food Trends During Coronavirus blog for more on what diners are craving.

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June 1st, 2020

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

How Has COVID-19 Changed Food Trends?

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Food trends during the coronavirus pandemic have, as you might imagine, changed from what earlier predictions may have expected. Isolation and self-preparation of foods has left consumers yearning for comfort and portability over experimentation and presentation.

During a recent RCA PoweredUp session, Mike Kostyo of Datassential discussed this very topic. By monitoring menu and retail trends from over 100,00 national sources, he showcased what consumers are really craving during this time.

Let’s look at some of the top trends highlighted.

Coronavirus Food Trends

Plant-Based Foods

Plant Based Food Trends

2019 marked a major up-tick in plant-based food representation on menus nationally, going from 14% in 2018 to 56% in 2019. Meat sales from April 12 to May 9, 2020 were 28 percent higher than in the four weeks ending Jan. 18, 2020 according to data from Nielsen. Plant-based meat substitutes, had a jump of 35 percent in sales during the same period. The increase for uncooked products was more dramatic: 53 percent for the vegan products versus 34 percent for meat.

Environmental concerns among consumers are also a driver for this trend. In fact, 21% of consumers are interested in plant-based foods for the environmental impact alone. Generation Z is undoubtedly the leader in plant-based food interest, with 64% of Gen. Zs having tried it and 1 in 5 saying they love it. So, if your target audience is comprised of Gen. Z, you should be considering plant-based options on your menus ASAP!

Mexican Food

COVID-19 Food Trends

Whether it’s the bottomless chips and salsa, the energetic social nature of Mexican restaurants, or the ice-cold citrus margaritas, Mexican food leads the pack for the most craved foods during COVID-19.

The tough part with most Mexican foods is portability. The crispy, crunchy tacos and tostadas tend to lose their texture, smothered burritos get a bit soggy, and fajitas just don’t have quite the same flair without the sizzle platter.

Many Mexican restaurants have overcome these limitations by providing deconstructed to go kits, creative to-go packaging with moisture vents, and limited menus to ensure what they are selling travels well. As Mexican restaurants continue to learn how to overcome these limitations (to-go margaritas certainly help!), you can expect this trend to strengthen and cross into other platforms, like pizza and burgers.

Pizza

Pizza Popularity during COVID-19

Most experts expected pizza to be a top trend prior to coronavirus and it looks like they were right. Cravings for pizza have not decreased during the pandemic. In fact, according to QSR magazine, in March the pizza segment of restaurants showed the smallest losses (8%) but were already starting to level off again.

There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, pizza is still the most popular food in America. Additionally, pizza has high value, has been available to bake at home for years, and is essentially designed for delivery, so there was no consumer hurdle to get over when dine-in options closed.

Pizza companies have further increased interest in their products by offering plant-based options, family meal deals, and efficient contactless order and delivery methods.

BBQ

BBQ trends

BBQ, the classic backyard event, and the All-American outdoor activity. Couple that with the warm summer weather and nostalgia for simpler times and it’s no wonder BBQ ranks high on the current trends list. Like meatloaf and apple pie, BBQ is a classic American comfort food.

Restaurants can easily incorporate BBQ items on their menus. Brisket tacos, pulled-pork pizza, and short-rib sandwiches are all crave-worthy inclusions that consumers will love. Plus, BBQ is extremely portable and loses very little quality in transport.

So, get those smokers rolling, the people want ribs!

Is Your Menu Adapting?

We hope so. Check out previous blogs to see what other trends we’ve seen and how restaurants nationally are responding. Chime in below with your thoughts on what’s trending how to attract customers. We love your feedback.

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May 4th, 2020

April 2020 New Menu Items

Posted in Consumer Trends, New Foods and Flavors

April 2020 New Menu Items

April 2020 New Menu Items: Triple Pepperoni Pizza, Family Meals, & More

The April 2020 New Menu Items sing a similar tune as March, with family meals coming strong. They also hit on bold flavors as we move into summer and celebrate Cinco de Mayo. While Coronavirus may be stifling in-restaurant dining, it can’t dampen the creativity and ingenuity of restaurateurs.

So, let’s take a look at what some of our national favorites launched this last month.

April 2020 New Menu Items

 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen

April 2020 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of texasborderbusiness.com

Cheddar’s doubles down on its Family Meal offerings with a hearty bundle of craveables, each meant to serve a family of four. Choose from Chicken Tenders, Cheeseburgers, Lemon-Pepper Chicken, or House-Smoked Baby Back Ribs paired with two family-sized sides. Dinner just got a whole lot easier.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

New Menu Items April 2020

Photo courtesy of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop (Waxahachie) FaceBook.

Fuzzy’s is getting on the Family Meal train with their Taco Family Meal. It includes a choice of two meats, two sides, chips, queso, salsa, tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded Cheddar cheese, cilantro, feta, garlic sauce and hot sauce. $35.00 for a regular meal serving 4-6 people or $50 for 6-8 people. Great for those larger families and just in time for Cinco de Mayo.

Jet’s Pizza

New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of prnewswire.com

Michigan’s cult favorite Jet’s Pizza also has its eye on Cinco de Mayo with the release of their new Mexican Pizza. More than just a taco pizza, this fiesta starter is packed with chorizo, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, black olives, diced tomatoes and spicy jalapeno peppers.

Nathan’s Famous

Nathan's Famous

Photo courtesy of restaurantnews.com

Partnering with Franklin Junction, Nathan’s Famous has launched family meals made just for delivery. These include a hot Dog Meal, a Hand-Dipped Chicken Meal, and a Hot Honey Chicken meal. All include fries and soft drinks, and a couple even come with their famous apple pies!

Papa Murphy’s

Pepperoni Pizza Trends

Photo courtesy of chewboom.com

The “Take’n Bake” specialists at Papa Murphy’s seem to know what people want, which is pepperoni. So how do they give it to them? With the Triple Pepp Pizza featuring three types of pepperoni: Giant, regular, and mini-cup. It’s a pepperoni party!

Yard House

April 2020 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of yardhouse.com

Our friends over at Yard House heard about the family meal craze and decided to go all in with six (six!) different family options. These include a Mac & Cheese Meal, Pizza, Salad, and Wings Meal, a Chicken Meal, a Steak or Salmon Meal, a 20/30 count Bone-In or Boneless Chicken Wings Meal (Buffalo, Korean, ancho barbecue or whiskey black pepper), a quart of soup, and/or a full-size Creme Brulee Cheesecake or Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise. Any one of those is a comfort food feast!

Blaze Pizza & 1000 Degrees Pizza

Menu Trends 2020

Photo courtesy of blazepizza.com

Both quick service pizza giants saw the opportunity for at home pizza kits and ran with it. The kits come with dough or crusts, sauces, toppings, and even dusting flour so you can take the freshly baked pizza experience home with you.

Velvet Taco

April 2020 Menu Trends

Photo courtesy of velvettaco.com

Our final addition to the list comes from the taco geniuses over at Velvet Taco. You won’t want to miss out on their new Green Chile Pork Taco. Made with Tomatillo corn stewed pork, avocado, roasted poblano strips, mayonnaise crema, queso fresco, pickled Fresno chiles, buttered basmati cilantro rice, salsa verde and micro cilantro all wrapped up in a fresh corn tortilla. It’s a guaranteed hit!

Adios por Ahora

And happy Cinco de Mayo to all! Be sure to stay on trend and keep your guests coming back for more with fresh ideas and unique takes on classics. Hopefully, we’ll see you in one of our upcoming New Menu Items posts.

Cheers!

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April 6th, 2020

Restaurants Adapt to Coronavirus

Posted in Educational

Restaurants Use Creativity to Adapt to Coronavirus

Restaurants Adapt to Coronavirus

Restaurants across the nation are working tirelessly to adapt to life with coronavirus. This takes much more work for some.

Many restaurants were already effectively set up for delivery services, while others had (up to very recently) not considered having it as an option. This has led to a scramble to put the framework in place.

But restaurants can’t survive on delivery only. Therefore, many have innovated new offerings, delivery options, and services to help offset the loss of foot traffic felt on their premises and in their pocketbooks.

How Restaurants are Adapting to CoronavirusContactless Delivery

Contactless/Curbside Delivery

We’ll start with the most obvious: Contactless and curbside delivery methods. Several national chains (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, &pizza, Chili’s, and Wingstop, to name a few) have implemented a contactless delivery option. Even the grocery delivery service Instacart is providing contactless delivery.

This is how it works: Customers order their food (or groceries) online and pay ahead. The items are then delivered to their doorstep by an employee (or delivery service). The customer is alerted of the arrival of their food and voila! Everything they need without risk of contamination. This option has helped many restaurants maintain a steady flow of business.

Conversely, for those businesses who don’t have the infrastructure for delivery (or are out of area), curbside pickup has become quite popular. This works one of two ways. First, customers order ahead, then call upon arriving at the restaurant and an employee brings their food out to their vehicle. With the second method, customers order ahead, and their food is placed in a marked bag in a receptacle in front of the restaurant. There’s a bit of an “honor system” required with the second option, but so far no issues have been reported.

Meal Kits

Meal Kits Coronavirus

Meal kits are a great way for restaurants to maximize income on minimal labor. No need to fire up the stoves and fryers for these packs. Just prep out the ingredients, package them up with simple instructions, and allow families a chance to find their inner chef at home.

Crossroads Kitchen in LA is providing lasagna kits, while the Michelin famous Alinea in Chicago offers short rib beef wellington and margarita kits. In San Francisco you can get Creole spiced buttermilk fried/baked chicken from Ungrafted. Even specialty providers like pop-up dinner chefs and caterers have entered the meal kit arena, as exemplified by Elemental Table and Lunch Wired Corporate Catery in Denver.

Some specialty shops have noticed a need for food related entertainment. Buttercream Bakeshop in Denver is preparing cupcake decorating kits for delivery. They’re complete with your choice of cupcakes, buttercream frosting, sprinkles, and other toppings.

Alcohol Take Out / Delivery

Restaurants Coronavirus

In the wake of mandatory business shut-downs across many states, liquor laws have loosened allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine, spirits, and mixed cocktails with their to-go and pickup orders. This is a big help, as on average alcohol represents 20-30% of total restaurant sales nationwide.

States like New York, Colorado, Illinois, California, and Texas have temporarily relaxed the laws to allow restaurants a chance to earn income off these high profit items. And with many of these same areas imposing mandatory “stay at home” orders for the population, alcohol related risks are relatively low.

I’ll Have That To Go!

These are only a few ways restaurants are innovating in the face of difficult times. Most have reduced their menu sizes to support to-go, while some have gone as far as selling groceries out of their walk-ins. At the end of the day, restaurants need customers to keep ordering, and they’ll do what it takes to feed them. Hopefully they’ll order a bottle of wine to pair with that lasagna kit.

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